Anyone for sex and shopping?

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HMMM . . . What shall I do in five years' time when my children are grown up? Perhaps I'll pop along to a clinic and have another baby. I shall be over 50 but that's no problem these days and I'll still only be 70 when it goes to university. Which sex shall I choose? After two girls it might be rather fun to have a boy but I suppose my husband will disagree. It could be like the what- colour-shall-we-paint-the-sitting-room argument all over again. Easier, really, not to involve him - these clinics must have plenty of test-tubes to choose from. You just say you want a tall dark Latin type with a high IQ, and Bob's your uncle - or father, I mean. The thought of going through labour again is rather off-putting, but I dare say they can arrange for me to have the baby by Caesarean a bit early. Or could I hire someone to do that? Carry it for the last few tedious months when it gets too heavy? Luckily now the mortgage is paid off we can afford a full-time live-in nanny so there won't be any of that getting up in the night malarkey like last time. I'll just give the baby some quality time from, say, 5.30 to 6.00 every evening and then beef up the maternal input when it's old enough to appreciate it. Toddlers are so ungrateful, you can pick up their toys and wipe their bottoms all day without a word of thanks. Suppose it turns out sickly, or worse still, disabled? But it won't be: I'll have it scanned every week of the pregnancy and pull the plug if it looks like being a dud. And how nice it will be when I am in my sixties to have a big strong teenage boy to do all the heavy jobs around the house. My husband should be grateful - but I won't tell him. It can be a surprise.

A NEW American paperback called He Says, She Says by Dr Lillian Glass (Piatkus) claims to teach us how to communicate better with the opposite sex. It is full of things we never could have guessed. For instance, Dr Glass explains that, if you are a man and you notice that your girlfriend smells, you should not say, in the normal way, 'You smell like a dead sewer rat' or 'Who died in here?' but instead should wrap it in more female-pleasing language, viz: 'Darling, you know I would never want to offend you, but I have to tell you there's an unusual odour coming from your vaginal area. Perhaps you might want to see a gynaecologist. You might have an infection or something down there.'

Dr Glass also offers a gripping section headed, 'The Communication Gap Hits the Royal Couple' in which she reproduces an alleged conversation between the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana recorded during their engagement while he was in Australia. The conversation goes as follows:

'Diana: Won't it be nice when we can go out together again?

Charles: Perhaps we won't know what to talk about.

Diana: Well, you can start by telling me about all those blondes who chase you and I can laugh because you belong to me.

Charles: Yes.'

And then later . . .

'Charles: I'm glad to be out of New Zealand. Now I know everything I need to know about the paper industry in New Zealand. But I ask myself all the time about what you were up to.

Diana: I really miss you, darling. I'm not really alone, but it bothers me that thousands of people can be with you and I can't. I'm really jealous.

Charles: Yes, I know. It's too bad, but in a couple of years you might be glad to get rid of me for a while.

Diana: Never.

Charles: I'll remind you of that in 10 years' time.'

WHEN EVERYONE else is saying that political correctness is a media myth, I've had my first real-life brush with it. On Monday I went to Carousel at the National Theatre and remarked to some friends afterwards that I thought it a pity that Mr Snow was played by a black actor. Clive Rowe was excellent, I hasten to say, but the whole point of the Snow marriage is that it is meant to form a totally conventional, bourgeois counterpoint to Julie's dangerous liaison with Billy Bigelow. Yet how can it - in 19th-century New England - be a conventional marriage when Mr Snow is black and Carrie is white? It would make more sense for Billy Bigelow to be black, or for everyone to be black, but not Mr Snow alone. My friends were furious with me. Didn't I want black actors to get work? Wasn't Clive Rowe a superb singer? It was racist, they told me, for me even to notice the skin colour of the actor playing Mr Snow. Someone then changed the subject by saying it was a shame Billy Bigelow looked like a Bruce Weber pin-up and we all readily agreed. Tell me this is madness.

I AM IN DEEP disgrace with many readers for showing my literary ignorance the other week. How could I not have heard of Terry Pratchett, who by all your accounts is the funniest writer since Wodehouse? Edna Clowsley, 81, walked to her bookshop especially to buy me one of his books so I've sat with furrowed brow all week saying 'Oh yes, this must be very funny,' while actually thinking I'd get more laughs reading the Maastricht Bill.

As for Tove Jansson, a reader writes: 'Her Moomins stories taught me why 'Hello' can be as sad as 'Goodbye' but that neither could exist on its own. She introduced me to the ideas of communism, capitalism, feminism and proved why we should ignore 'Keep off the grass' signs . . . Please take at least one day to stroll in Moomin Valley. Would it help if I kissed you kindly on the nose?' No way.

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